Chumped’s Teenage Retirement is for the young and restless, even the young at heart, those who dance to punk, power pop, anything with fuzz as long as its fast, melodic, those who love getting drunk with friends, talk about their “shitty” lives, teenage woes. It’s an unhealthy mix of broken hearts, drunken nights, wasted time, melodic punk and emo. Perfect picture of bad health, according to one Green Day song. They may sound a bit like Paramore but they take much much more from their heroes—among them Weezer and Superchunk—more than they do second-hand post-hardcore stuff. And no, Anika Pyle doesn’t agonize and yells as much as Hayley girl does. And while Superchunk and Weezer may be their heroes, I guess this all goes back to Boston—Massachusetts, not the band (i.e., More Than A Feeling). Because every time I play “December…” I can’t help but hear Joey Santiago and Kim Deal. And whether it transcends emo-punk or not, “The Pains of Being…” with its sparse lyrics (We get older / Time moves faster / You stay the same) and intertwining guitars that echoes both Pavement and Built To Spill, is probably the album’s most repeat-worthy track. And it breaks my heart that they’ve already called it quits, in same way that my 16 year-old self bleeds a little bit every time she sings “I’m looking at you / You’re looking through me / I would wait for you all summer long and / you would turn me away.” I, WE all know how that feels.
Sadly, this would be the last of the fuzz/fun side of Ciudad. After this album, they got more sober, their lyrics started to make sense, and most of all, they seem to have lost most of the fun—and the fuzz. It’s Like A Magic is hardly on par with Ciudad’s first two albums, but when taken in this context – a collection of old songs that never made it to their first two albums, not so different from an outtakes or b-sides compilation – it’s actually up to snuff.
With lowered expectations already met, this shall surely delight all those who already love the band. For those who are new to the band, this is not the best place to start. That would be Hello! How Are You, Mico the Happy Bear? But since said LP is out of print and is not available on either Bandcamp or iTunes, one should check Is That Ciudad? Yes, Son, It’s Me instead, their equally superlative second album.
But that’s not to say “Cool Nerds”, “So?”, “Job Well Done, Wow!” and “Justin’s Saturday Night” aren’t worth a dime. Or that sifting thru the rubble just to get to “It’s Been Another Day” is more trouble than it’s worth. It is quite a bumpy ride (14 tracks, with roughly eight good ones), but also a fun-filled one. But if you really wanna become a fan with this album, then zoom in straight to the A-sides; dive into the mopey “Benny & Betty”, the freakishly juvenile “Escape”, twist ‘n turn with “Fixing The Radio” and savor the slacker-heaven beauty of “What A Girl”. Only then can you go down the rabbit hole, and listen to a song about a camera or the one that references Deadeye Dick’s “New Age Girl” – you know, that 90’s hit that goes “Mary Moon, she’s a vegetarian (Mary Moon, Mary Moon)…she don’t eat meat but she sure likes the bone”.
Two excellent lovely twinkly EPs…
It’ll Be Alright (Ourselves the Elves, 2013) What elevates this from the rest of female-fronted bands of local indieland, I don’t know exactly. Maybe it’s the lack of synths. Or the lo-fi prod perhaps? Maybe it’s the untamed cymbals occasionally clashing with the guitars. Or maybe it’s the intimate air that makes me feel I’m in the same room with them – and they’re giving me the finest 12 minutes of twee-folk I can find – online. Or maybe it’s Akira Medina and Alyana Cabral’s call and response on “Shelter”. And maybe because their music reminds me a bit of Camera Obscura, only it’s more stripped-down and folksy. Or maybe it’s Kidlat Tahimik, who once asked why yellow is at the middle of the rainbow. Yes, I guess that’s the one.
Stargazer (The Strange Creatures, 2014) The title track, as beautiful as Van Gogh, gets me sick of long distance calls and makes me wish time travel, teleportation and magic are all not impossible, so we could just gaze at the stars instead. So I looked on the bright side to get some retro-hope despite everything and put the first single on repeat until I got hooked on it. Like a potent pharmacological substance, it gives me natural high and I can’t help but slyly smile every time they come to the lines, “step inside of my space ship, and give me a heeaad—trip”.
Like with any guitar-heavy rock band, one can namedrop the usual suspects with ease – Nirvana, Pavement, Husker Du – as usual. But one has to realize how tonally and aesthetically disparate those bands were and that their least common denominator is a RAT pedal. Yes, the singer strains his cords like Cobain and the guitars are dirty as fuck, but every time I listen, it seems to me, that they’re leaning more toward a The Strokes/The Vines/Arctic Monkeys kind of vibe than any of the aforementioned bands. And it only confirms my doubt that they’d get off to Karen O rather than Bikini Kill. But the guitars are loud alright, and the drums are forceful. Sometimes he sounds like Casablanca trying to outdo The Vines. That said, this gets a thumbs up nonetheless. Plus, they’re giving it away for free. So, I took a bite and it’s alright. You might also want to try.